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FPPI - Final Championship Series Standings

The NLCS took seven games to complete, forcing the Mariners to sweat bullets at the top of the FPPI leaderboard. Did they hold on? The final standings are below!

Click image for larger view

I find it remarkable that the Mariners "won" this "battle," even though most former Mariners played for the Yankees. It is pretty clear that the Yankees tanked worse than any other team in the playoffs. It just so happens that the former Mariners on their team were not part of the problem (or perhaps, in the case of A-Rod, they were such a big problem they got benched).

Still, the Marlins and Twins got strong contributions from Tigers players. The Red Sox were buoyed by Marco Scutaro, the NLCS MVP. Other teams high on the list had players on winning ballclubs, which makes sense since WPA measures a team's chance of winning. Somehow, former Mariners contributed significantly to wins even in the midst of losses.

Go (former) Mariners?

Could You Get Used to Vernon Wells?

Way back when Vernon Wells was good.
Photo taken by Flickr user imagesbyferg.
I almost went with a couple horrifically cheesy puns for the title of this post:

Angel in the Outfield?

Match Made in Heaven

If either of these puns would have made your day as the title of this post, let me know in the comments. The only thing that saved me from using one of them is that I had two to choose from, and couldn't make a choice.

The Angels want to find a new home for Vernon Wells. He hasn't been that good for them, they have a logjam in their outfield, and he's going to make $21 million in 2013, and $21 million again in 2014. He is darn near the textbook definition of a commodity impossible to trade.

Of course, I wouldn't be writing this post if I didn't have a Wells trade in mind, particularly a trade involving the Mariners.

What if the Mariners and Angels swapped Chone Figgins for Vernon Wells, straight up?

FPPI Midweek Update

I'll cut straight to the chase this time. If you want an explanation of what FPPI is, it's basically a quantification of the misery that is watching former players of your favorite team succeed in the playoffs. A more detailed explanation can be found here, along with the initial standings. Below are the rankings as of Tuesday night, with the NLCS tied at a game apiece and the Tigers ahead in the ALCS three games to none:

Click picture for larger size. Click "continue reading" for some musings.

Former Player Pain Index

This time of year, particularly without the Mariners even sniffing the postseason, former Mariners coming up big in big spots becomes painfully noticeable. It stings, because the obvious question is so why exactly did we get rid of him?

It feels like former Mariners succeed in big postseason moments shockingly often. However, I could just be a bitter fan. Maybe I only notice when former Mariners do great things, but never when they struggle.

I am going to put my assumption to the test with what I am calling the Former Player Pain Index (FPPI).

FPPI works rather simply. It is entirely based on WPA, the perfect stat for FPPI because it recognizes that a game-tying home run in the ninth alters a team's chances of winning much more than a home run in the top half of the first inning. Higher WPAs correlate to the big moments I think of in my head when I remember former Mariners in the playoffs.

Essentially, a team's FPPI is the sum of the WPAs of former players for that team. Not all WPAs are weighted equally though, because not every former player is the same. It's one thing for a player to spend one year with a team, and another for them to spend a decade. Recency counts too. The more recently the former player was a current player on a team, the more it stings to watch them succeed elsewhere. The loss is still fresh. FPPI accounts for these two factors by multiplying WPAs by a bonus factor. It is calculated simply by adding up all the seasons a player played for their former team and subtracting how many years it has been since they played for their former team.

For instance, Raul Ibanez played a total of 10 seasons with the Mariners, and it had been 3 seasons (before this one) since he played for the Mariners. Thus, his bonus factor is 7. Ibanez also played multiple seasons for the Royals, but so far in the past that they receive no bonus factor.

The standings through games one and two of the ALCS and game one of the NLCS are below. Click on the graphic to enlarge it. Some analysis follows after the jump:

Winning Rosters

Every division series went five games this year for the first time ever. I was constantly reminded how awesome it is to make the postseason, and how long it has been since the Mariners made it.

Honestly, how close are the Mariners to contention?

The more I thought about game fives, the more I thought about what makes them special, and perhaps illuminating with the correct data. Winner-take-all games foster the purist winning strategies. Neither team plays for tomorrow. They must put their absolute best lineup on the field that day, and every move is made for the sole purpose of winning the current ballgame. This is a rarity in baseball, where managing the daily grind is often as big of a deal as managing the current game at hand.

This year provided a chance to look at four game five winners. A total of 57 players were used by the four winners, for an average of 14.25 players per team. Starters account for 9.5 of those (one league has the DH, the other doesn't), and the remaining 4.75 players are roughly a 50/50 split between a team's bench and bullpen.

The following graph is a look at these 57 players' career trajectories, from the first season they appeared as a professional to today. Seasons where a player split time at multiple levels were counted to the level they spent the most time at (judged by plate appearances for position players and innings pitched for pitchers):

Rethinking MLB TV Revenue

I came across a small post about new MLB media deals by Maury Brown at Biz of Baseball. The national MLB media contracts will essentially double. Major League Baseball currently splits the revenues evenly with all 30 MLB teams, which makes some intuitive sense even though some teams (ahem, Red Sox and Yankees) have more national broadcasts than others. Major League Baseball takes an equality-based approach with national media revenues right now.

What could MLB do if they took an equity-based approach? What I am talking about is if Major League Baseball thought more about providing equal opportunities to franchises instead of dispersing equal resources. Essentially, I am arguing that national TV revenues ought to be treated much like competitive balance funds.

I took a look at Forbes team valuations to get a sense of what an equity-based approach could look like.  The franchise values are cool but what I was really interested in were the revenue estimates. Revenue should represent the money that a team can actually spend in a given year. I made a pretty major assumption and subtracted $24 million from each team's revenue total, assuming this amount is about what MLB teams currently get and that Forbes included that money in each team's revenue. Then I went to work. My premise was simple: balance out revenue as evenly as possible.

I was astonished at what I could do using only the pool of national media money. I could disperse the cash in such a way that 27 of the 30 teams had the exact same revenue, $227 million. The only exceptions were the top three clubs, the Yankees ($415 million), Red Sox ($286 million), and Cubs ($242 million), even though I gave no money from the national media deal to any of those teams.

Keep in mind that this is a pool of money that is currently distributed evenly with all MLB franchises. In other words, the competitive balance monies handed out, which are not distributed evenly, come from elsewhere. They haven't been used at all in this hypothetical scenario.

2012 Awards

One of the great privileges that comes with Baseball Bloggers Alliance membership is the opportunity to vote on postseason awards. I am classified as a Mariners blog, so I vote only on American League awards. Results of BBA-wide voting will come out as October unfolds, and I will post the results as they come out. For now, you will have to settle with how I voted, along with my rationale:

Fences Coming In

The last game of the season just happened, and that feels like a big enough deal to write about, but is it really? Neither the Mariners nor the Angels had much to play for, although the M's seemed to care a bit more with their convincing 12-0 victory. They beat Jered Weaver in the process, dropping him to 20-5 on the season. Fun fact: 3 of Weaver's 5 losses in 2012 were to the Mariners. Go figure.

Anyway, the more meaningful news is that the Safeco Field's dimensions will be different in 2013. The fences are coming in, particularly in left-center field. The changes should make hitting easier, but what kind of an effect will it have?

Let's start with quantifying how cavernous Safeco Field played in 2012. The Mariners had a .275 wOBA at home, easily the worst mark in all of Major League Baseball. 7.7% of their fly balls at home went for home runs, easily below the MLB average, but still better than the Padres, Marlins, and Giants.

Of course, not all team lineups are created equal. The Mariners have had some rough seasons in Safeco, but been just about as atrocious on the road. That suggests something more about their lineup than their ballpark. 2012 was a different story though. The Mariners had a .305 wOBA on the road and 11.9% of their fly balls went for home runs. The differences are noteworthy, but wOBA is particularly shocking given that MLB teams as a whole posted a .323 wOBA at home this year, but just a .308 wOBA on the road.*

*Percentage of fly balls that were home runs had a negligible difference, 11.9% at home and 11.5% on the road.

So what exactly will the new walls do? Below is a diagram of Safeco Field with balls in play data from 2012 (both Mariners and opponents). I've only included doubles, triples, and fly balls. The yellow lines are the new walls sketched to the best of my ability. Ball in play data doesn't have the incredible precision that the scatter of dots might suggest either. In other words, the picture gives a feel for what might have happened this season with the new dimensions, but no definitive answers. See what you think:

image from

Placing Triple Crowns In Perspective

Miguel Cabrera may just win the triple crown. He leads the American League in batting average and RBIs. He is tied with Josh Hamilton for the league lead in home runs at 43. The last player to win the triple crown in either league is Carl Yastrzemski, back in 1967. Cabrera would become only the 13th triple crown winner since the birth of the World Series.

Wrapped up in the Cabrera triple crown race is an MVP debate, which has increasingly been colored as a battle between history and modern analysis. Traditionalists supposedly prefer and respect the historical glory of the triple crown more than sabermetricians, while the number-crunchers say that focusing on antiquated hitting statistics sells the rightful MVP recipient, Mike Trout, woefully short.

Get a taste of the debate for yourself, if you wish, via the internets. Arguments for Miguel Cabrera tend to romanticize what a triple crown represents. Arguments for Mike Trout tend to feel sound and logical, or cold and calculated, depending on your preferred view/adjectives.

I tend to live more on the sabermetric side of things, but the argument for the triple crown compelled me to investigate. What does it mean to win the triple crown, and what might that mean for Miguel Cabrera in the 2012 MVP race?